Monthly Archives: January 2016
Director: Ryan Coogler
It’s been an incredible forty years since Rocky Balboa first appeared onto our screens and into our hearts as it became one of the biggest boxing movie franchises in the world. It was a movie that made Sylvester Stallone one of Hollywood’s biggest names, but it might never have happened at all.
As a young actor, Sylvester Stallone came up with the idea, characters and even the script for the first Rocky movie. He showcased the script around Hollywood trying to entice Production Companies to make his movie and it received a lot of interest. There was one snag though. Stallone himself wanted to star in it. His determination to cast himself deterred a lot of Hollywood’s bigwigs as he was an unknown and they wanted an A-list star. Perseverance is one of Stallone’s many strengths though and eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, United Artists agreed and the film became a huge success producing five sequels which have made over $1 billion worldwide.
Stallone’s last outing as Rocky Balboa came ten years ago in the movie of the same name which saw Stallone don the gloves once again at 60 years old. Approaching his seventieth year, this was definitely one that he would not be getting back in the ring for. But for writer/director Ryan Coogler, that was all about to change.
“Creed” is not a Sylvester Stallone film. He had nothing to do with the story or the direction. Infact, he didn’t want to be part of it at all. If not for the persistence of Ryan Coogler, similar to Stallone’s own persistence in 1976, he may not have even been in it.
Adonis Johnson is a young man always getting into trouble. The opening scenes of the movie shows him getting into a fight in a juvenile prison. The fight is broken up and Adonis, who goes by the name “Donnie” throughout the movie receives a visit from a woman who knows a lot about his past. He learns that his father was former heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed and that he had died before he was born. Adonis himself wants to become a boxer, but does not want to bear the weight of the Creed name. Despite living with his father’s wife and wanting for nothing, it’s still not enough for him. Donnie quits his job and moves into an old run down apartment while he attempts to forge a career for himself. And then he meets Rocky Balboa. Rocky is fighting his own battles now and the former world champion looks a shadow of his former self. Still running his restaurant, it is all Balboa has to keep himself busy until he meets Adonis and discovers his true identity. Donnie tries to convince Rocky to train him, but his actions are rebuffed. Donnie, keeping up the theme of the background of the movie shows great persistence and eventually Rocky agrees to coach him as Adonis Johnson aims to make it big.
Many would have had reservations about another Rocky film, but this isn’t another Rocky film. It is the start of a new franchise, a new journey and it’s good. Michael B Jordan had a difficult task filling Rocky’s boots, but these are Adonis Creed’s boots. It would never come close to being like the first Rocky film, but it weighs in well in its own category for want of shoe horning a boxing pun into the context of the review. The ups and downs of Creed’s life are expertly weaved, ducked and dodged by Jordan in a role that is full of expectation. Sylvester Stallone knows Rocky like no other. His role is superb. He is Rocky. It feels almost like Rocky Balboa was cast in this film to play himself and not Sylvester cast as the boxer. You feel sorry for Rocky. He has come so far and lost so much. His dialogue, his character, his persona was almost as if he didn’t have a script. It’s of no surprise that Stallone was awarded a Golden Globe for best supporting actor recently followed up by an Oscar nomination in the same category, he is a remarkable talent. British boxer Tony Bellew, a mad Everton Football Club fan played the opposition in Creed’s first big fight, ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan and for a sportsman who has never acted before, he did very well. Parts of the latter part of the film where filmed in England and in particular in Bellew’s beloved Goodison Park where Everton play their home games.
Ryan Coogler has taken a brave step to not only add another dimension onto a legacy, but to have the fight and persistence to get what he wants. The script plays tribute to the original with some nods of appreciation to the original story and some moments of melancholy as Coogler depicts just how far Rocky has come. The climatic ending befits the original Rocky movie itself as blood races and the heart pumps and then you hear the opening chords of possible one of the most inspiring pieces of music, Gonna Fly Now, the theme synonymous to Rocky playing in the background and even though Rocky’s not exactly back, Adonis Creed is here and with weight to continue this franchise and continue the legacy.
Director: J.J. Abrams
There is something about watching a movie at the cinema that brings out the excitement in me. I have loved movies since my earliest memory. I love watching the trailers, eating popcorn and waiting for it to start. It is a truly magical experience. Now imagine all of that excitement, happiness and joy when the screen goes black and those immortal words in blue appear…
A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Then the Star Wars logo appears on screen and the first bars of one of John Williams’ most iconic pieces of music blast out at you making the entire room shake and the realisation that you are about to watch a brand new Star Wars movie hits.
Following on from the “disastrous” prequels, according to some, the expectancy of the continuation from “Return of the Jedi” was big. News hit that Disney was to take over the franchise from George Lucas and that they wanted to make episodes VII, VIII and IX. Before too long it was confirmed that J.J. Abrams was to take over writing and directorial duties. Following on from his success in rebooting the Star Trek movies, we knew this was in safe hands.
The internet was soon awash with cast news, photographs and that infamous shot of the first read through. It was still unconfirmed who was playing who, but the important news was that the original cast were coming back to reprise their roles.
Teaser trailers then came followed by the first main trailers and as much as I wanted to avoid it, I couldn’t. From the snippets we saw low flying X-Wings, Stormtroopers and the new lightsabre the prospects were good. But would it live up to expectations? Would it please the diehard fans of the Star Wars universe? The scrolling text had just disappeared into the dark depths of space and we were just about to find out.
The opening scene shows a dark shadow of a ship appear on screen and before long we are thrust right into the action. The original Stormtroopers are back and they are working for a new terror, Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader wannabe lured to the Dark Side in order to complete the mission that his predecessor failed to. Finn is part of the First Order, the group created to take on the Republic, but he was taken from his family to become a Stormtrooper and he doesn’t want to be part of it. Pilot Poe Dameron is captured as he is rumoured to hold vital information of the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, but the information he holds was installed into a small droid unit called BB-8. In a similar vain to “A New Hope” the mission is to then get this information back to the Republic before it falls into the wrong hands. Finn helps Poe escape and they steal a Tie Fighter, but get shot down and subsequently separated on the planet of Jakku where Finn meets Rey, a scavenger scraping bits from the remains of Imperial Starships in order to sell for food, hoping one day the family that left her will return. Hunted down by the First Order, Finn, Rey and BB-8 go on the run in order to fulfil the mission and bump into some familiar faces in the process.
What follows is a riot of action sequences, jaw dropping visuals, perfect dialogue and astonishing cinematography as J.J. Abrams grabs the reins and steers us through a truly breath-taking, but exceptionally mesmerising movie that belongs right up there alongside the others.
The sight of seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca back on screen is enough to fill the eyes of anyone. It was a moment of cinematical magic that could never be captured again. It means so much to the movie and it means so much to the fans. Abrams has crafted and sculptured a script that some say is too reminiscent of the original, but it has been produced in admiration of “A New Hope” with a plethora of new characters and storylines to explore.
John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are both British actors. They are relatively unknown (as were the original cast back in 1977) but they handled the pressure and the hype of starring in what could be the biggest selling movie of all time with such assurance and calmness and they completely nailed their roles bringing them deservedly into the Star Wars universe along with the greats. BB-8 was a refreshing character instantly adored by millions and is what George Lucas could have done with in the prequels rather than Jar Jar Binks. Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew as Han and Chewie get a lot of screen time as we see the friends thrown back into the action with glimpses of the beautiful Carrie Fisher as General Leia. Anthony Daniels as C3-PO jumps onto the screen with warm relief and Kenny Baker as R2-D2 shares a percentage of screen time, but it is the mystery surrounding Luke Skywalker that leaves us wanting more. Adam Driver was menacing as Kylo Ren and there was yet more mystery around the character of Supreme Leader Snoke portrayed in one of the movie’s few CGI scenes by Andy Serkis. It is the limited use of CGI which gives The Force Awakens that original feel.
There are many unanswered questions, particularly surrounding certain characters, but there is a lot more to come and it could be bigger and better than this movie. Once the credits start to roll you want to rewind it and watch it all over again. There are very few movies that can have that impact and in a strange sort of way, as much as The Force Awakens isn’t perfect, it is.